DE #3 revised and expanded
by Dr. Willis E. McNelly
Soon after receiving the contract and my initial advance, I began thinking about some of the complications involved in compiling a DE. There were many which I thought of originally and even more as the work progressed.
Top most was the fact that while FH had not yet completed DUNE 4, yet the contract specified that it should cover "The Dune trilogy and the forthcoming DUNE volume." My original notion was that I would write all of the entries from Dune 4 based upon the manuscript which I would get from FH. No problem, I thought. Piece of cake - I thought. Dreamer!
Financial details were also important. With the initial advance I established a special checking account in my local credit union to handle the money which would be involved in paying expenses or contributors. While the advance would total $20,000 after completion and acceptance of the manuscript by the publisher, I would have to cover the expenses from my own packet after the initial advance was used up. Parenthetically, my expenses far exceeded t he advance. My phone bills were in the hundreds each month; my photocopy bill was enormous, and my postage -- all at first class rates, of course -- was in the high four figures after I added it all up. And all this before the first essay was assigned or the first contributor was paid. Even if most of the contributors were university and college professors who wrote for a living, I knew they deserved professional payment. In Harlan Ellison's words, they were like the hooker who loved her work: she still got paid for it.
After considerable discussion with some of my colleagues in various departments at Cal State Fullerton, the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the Science Fiction Research Association, I decided to pay each contributor four cents a word for each accepted essay. I then drew up a tentative "work for hire" contract which I ran by the attorneys at Berkley, and then ultimately adopted. The copyright laws demanded I use the "work for hire" method because Berkley/Putnams insisted that copyright to the book would be secured solely in my name. Individual copyright by each writer simply was not an option.
Other problems included planning how to handle the details of the paper work; selecting potential topics, assigning them, paying for them, insuring that every contributor about, say the Bene Gesserit, knew what every other contributor on allied subjects was writing, and so on. The author of an entry on BG history had to know what another author was saying about BG government and organization, for example.
With help of some close friends and a thorough re-reading of the first three books, I developed a tentative list of 200 or so topics and made some "guesstimates" about the amount of space each might deserve. An essay about spice farming might be shorter than the one about Paul Atreides.
Because of the suggested length of the book and the large number of anticipated essays -- the contract with Berkley used the figure 250,000 words, as I have already said -- I took several steps to keep track of the material as it went out and was returned. First, I had made up approximately two hundred 5 by 7 file cards (remember this was in the pre-Apple IIE days and computer spread sheets or other computer aids did not exist). All contained the same basic subject headings: Name of entry; suggested length; date assigned and to whom; date assignment made; date essay returned; final length; date copy read; copies sent to other contributors for their information, and so on; date paid; check number, and so on.
I also established a charge account in the nearest photocopy shop; hired my daughter in law who had been a professional secretary to do a lot of typing and record keeping.
Finding writers was another of the hurdles for a planned 250,000 word volume, so eventually I wrote to all members of the Science Fiction Research telling them of the project, giving them a list of my projected topics, I asked if they would be interested in contributing one of more entries to the book, and if so, which ones - and even seeking their ideas for further topics.
While all this was going on, I discussed these problems with one of my colleagues at Cal State, my close friend, the late Dr. Charles Povlovich, a closet SF fan who was not only a military historian but a certified nationally accredited "games master." (It turned out that there were many closet SF fans among my colleagues at Cal State - in departments as varied as geology, speech correction, education, the library, and even one or two in what I like to call the "administrivia.")
Charles had refereed at contract bridge tournaments, for example, and also was a nationally certified expert on Robert's Rules of Order. As a gamesman, he immediately volunteered to write the entry on "Cheops." He presented it to me the very next day, and I liked it so much I sent a copy to every prospective contributor saying, in effect, "Go thou and do likewise." (It is printed virtually unchanged in the DE. If you re-read it, you'll note how he never tells how to play the game, but he discusses its history, its development, and so on in a most scholarly way. Note also his mild joke: "Even the great Garan Akbar once committed a premature eclipse . . ." It was the tone I liked, yet ever so slightly irreverent, and in my cover letter, I urged all contributors to imitate it, in a sense.
Accompanying my initial letter to prospective contributors in which I asked them to stake claims on various topics, I insisted on various ground rules. There must be NO mention of FH or any of the books in the text of their essays. The tone of the entries must be scholarly, authentic under the supposition that everything in the first four books was completely, totally real. I also emphasized that all measurements must be metric.
Yet what would be the source of all of this information? I first contemplated creating an Atreidean Archive and Library on Caladan, and in fact told FH on the phone that I would handle it that way. He told me then that I need not worry - that Dune 4 included a mechanism - the No room as it turned out - which could be used by all contributors as a source. I was concerned about timing, but the almost immediate publication of "God Emperor of Dune" not only solved the "source" problem, but enabled other contributors to write entries from that book. I also encouraged contributors to suggest topics which I might have overlooked or which seemed sensible to them. And from their suggestions came such truly original materials as the literature, music, and poetry of the Imperium; the Shakespeare (we called him "Harq al Harba", which is Arabic for Shakespeare) of the Imperium; Fremen (Frewomen?) menstruation, and so on. I let the writers have free rein, and they most amply repaid me for it. Material in GED, for example, gave one writer the notion that brief bios of the various Duncan Idahos might be interesting; another suggested that the Great Houses had insignia - and that they might be illustrated; still another took the relatively undeveloped notion of the Dune Tarot, and wanted to expand it - again with illustrations.
Shortly after I received the signed contract, I flew to Port Townsend to spend a long weekend with FH discussing the various problems which we both forsaw. I taped about eight hours of our conversations, and they now form part of the Herbert Archives at the Special Collections Library, Cal State Fullerton. Crucial to these conversations we held was the understanding that FH trusted me to remain true to the spirit of his books-- after all, he had told Berkley/Putnams that I was the only academician he would trust to compile a DE. If I had any major questions, I would clear them with him, but otherwise, I had a free hand.
And with a twinkle in his eye, he pointed out that the source of the material for the DE itself- the hypothetical No room - had been assembled by Leto II himself. Thus any conflicts or contadictions could be easily ascribed to the peculiar prejudices or preferences of Leto himself. (It is one of my regrets, by the way, that the only major essay excised by the publisher was one on "Alien Life" - which told of the discovery of another No room in another galaxy . . ."
Are there mistakes in the DE? Of course. While I carefully read and reread every essay at least four or five times, and a second reader went through them at last once more, an occasional gremlin slipped thru the cracks. I suppose I am responsible for the mistakes which slipped into the final copy (let the readers discover them - I won't reveal them) yet I like to think of Leto II and his arthropod grin being fanciful just one more time.
And blame him. Or as Chaucer put it, "Blameth nat me."